Linda Acaster is a British author of long and short fiction across an array of genres. Her newest ebook ‘Torc of Moonlight : Special Edition’, is the first in a trilogy of thrillers linking the present to the Celtic past.
So where do you hail from?
Yorkshire, England, UK. I grew up in Kingston upon Hull, a northern city port of 300,000, which looked more to the sea as a route of communication than to roads to join it to the rest of the country. That sense of the insular, of being apart, has always fed my writing. I live only 20 miles away now, in a small seaside town within walking distance of rural countryside.
What inspired you to write this book?
A walk in that countryside, or several walks. I love maps, and in the UK we have Ordnance Survey maps which mark things such as electricity pylons and whether a church has a steeple or a tower, alongside natural features like shale cliffs and forestry plantations. And named ancient springs. It was the frequency these named springs kept popping up that led me to the research that led me to the novel.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m a ‘show’ writer. I get behind my viewpoint characters’ eyes and live in their thought patterns. I take readers through night terrors and good and bad decisions, always with the unspoken ‘so what would you have done in the circumstances?’ In Torc of Moonlight SE the language has been described as rich and powerful, but in some of my other work it can be minimalist and staccato. It depends on the genre I’m writing and the narrative voice of the viewpoint character/s. Overall, if readers expect pages of description of what my characters look like or wear, then they’ll be disappointed. I don’t do fashion catalogue.
How did you come up with the title?
From the research. A torc is a neck-ring of twisted gold worn, in this case, by Romano-British Celts. The British Museum in London has lots on display and they are truly beautiful. They were an emblem of authority and were often sacrificed to goddesses of water shrines, of which Britain still has many, some Christianised, some not. Seasonal religious festivals of the period were scheduled to phases of the moon and, despite Torc of Moonlight SE being a contemporary novel, the one fits with the other. There is a paperback available, but the ebook is the Special Edition because it carries bonus material: research articles, an interview, and an opening excerpt of Book 2 in the trilogy The Bull At The Gate.
What is Torc of Moonlight : Special Edition about?
In short, the resurrection of a Celtic water goddess which, if you live in the UK, isn’t as bizarre as it sounds. Have you tossed coins into a wishing well? So who do you think is listening? And if you don’t think anyone’s listening, why are you tossing coins into it? Making some sort of sacrifice to water is built into our DNA. We have a need to do it, be it in a steel and glass shopping mall, a verdant rural setting, or even in the crypt of York Minster where an excavated Roman culvert still runs damp.
Not far from where I live is an ancient spring referred to on maps as Old Wives Well. A Roman road, invariably straight, was dog-legged so as to pass by it. The road no longer exists, reclaimed by Nature, but the spring still bubbles up pure water, and in the shrubs surrounding it hang tiny offerings. It’s an eerie place, featured obliquely in the novel. History is all around us here, mere inches beneath our feet, and it has a way of insinuating into our present, for good or ill.
Is it a single or multi-layered storyline?
Triples and triads were powerful elements in Celtic life, so I’ve followed this through with the storylines, which is why it is written in multiple third-person viewpoint. The main storyline concerns Nick and Alice’s relationship, which continues through the trilogy. He’s a normal beer-drinking, sport-playing, nineteen year old student, she determined to rediscover a forgotten Celtic water shrine she knows is in the area. Their parallel storyline focuses on a lascivious tutor with a past that comes to haunt him through an ex lover, and the binding storyline is of a Romano-British Celt trapped in the limbo of the present. How he came to be in this state, and what it means for the present day characters, unfolds backwards as the novel progresses forwards.
So is it a man’s or a woman’s novel?
LOL! Do you mean, is there a romance? Most definitely, and it follows through the trilogy to its HEA ending. But a Celtic water goddess was a fertility goddess, so the novel examines the differences between the uplifting qualities of ‘making love’ and the corrosive qualities of ‘having sex’. The paperback was well received by both female and male readers, but I wouldn’t suggest it’s a novel to be gifted to a fourteen year old.
What books are you reading now?
Planks and Other Timber by Michael Deane-White. I don’t often read poetry but the juxtaposition of language and caustic judgement I’m finding incisive, and he’s doing it in so few words, always a wonder to a novelist. The Doll Makers by Penny Grubb. This British PI crime won the international Debut Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association. It’s set in my area and I’m intrigued to see how another author tackles the landscape. On the story front, I can see why it won the Debut Dagger.
What are your current projects?
I continue to bring my print backlist to ebook as an indie author – I received a Kindle from Father Christmas this year and it’s a wonderful invention – and I’m working on a fiction/non-fiction writers’ manual which explores techniques used in writing short fiction. And there’s Book 2 in the Torc trilogy to finish, The Bull At The Gate.
Do you find that international audiences are different from your native country's audience?
I’m not sure yet. There seems a reluctance among US readers to try novels not set in the USA. If the storyline appeals, British readers are happy to pick up novels set in Alaska or New Mexico or Idaho. Perhaps it’s because US culture bombards us at every turn so we feel an affinity with it, but the same doesn’t happen so much in reverse. I was watching a programme about Scandinavian crime fiction not too long ago, and it brought it home to me that I’d only read one of the authors when these countries are just across the North Sea from me, whereas I’ve read a lot of American crime authors and we’re separated by an ocean.
Do you see writing as a career?
I’ve always seen writing as a career, even when it didn’t bring in any money. The need to be professional is an attitude of mind. All authors vie for readers’ attention, big names and unknowns. Why shoot yourself in the foot by not spending care and attention on your work? It’s liable to follow you around for the rest of your life.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In ebooks you can – LOL! But no, I’m happy with the end product.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
At school, around 11 years old. We move from Primary to Secondary education at that age, and dabbling in creative writing turned to composition and comprehension. I was lucky enough to have inspiring English teachers three consecutive years.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Starting. I love research, and always feel that if I just keep going I’ll find a nugget that will make the w-i-p glow. But it is easy to do that forever and not actually write. I also edit assiduously as I go, which makes for slow progress. 1,000 words in a full day is good for me, but by the time I get to the end, bar a final overall polish, it’s a done deal. It might be slow, but I’d not like to rush a draft and then start Draft 2 from scratch. I like to savour the emotional content of my writing so that readers can experience the nuances of the reality the characters inhabit.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Learn your craft and gain constructive feedback. Even now I belong to a writers’ support group which offers stiff constructive criticism. When you think it’s ready for publication pay for either a professional critique on a partial – 50 pages gives a good indication of problems liable to appear throughout the novel and won’t cost an arm and a leg – or a professional edit, which will cost more but there’s nothing like seeing your pages littered with annotations to give a new perspective on your writing. Improvement is what you are after. It’s what all writers aim for all the time. Best of luck.
Thanks Linda For Dropping By!
You can find Linda on the web at: